Current Forestry Reports

, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 72–84 | Cite as

Molecular Genetic Approaches Toward Understanding Forest-Associated Fungi and Their Interactive Roles Within Forest Ecosystems

  • Jane E. Stewart
  • Mee-Sook Kim
  • Ned B. Klopfenstein
Forest Pathology (A Carnegie, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Forest Pathology


Purpose of Review

The continued, rapid development of novel molecular genetic tools is contributing to a better understanding of forest-associated fungi and their interactive roles within diverse forest ecosystems. This paper focuses on recent developments of DNA-based diagnostics/detection, phylogenetics, population genetics, genomics, and metagenomics tools that have been applied to forest-associated fungi to better understand their roles in forest ecosystems and provide key insights for managing forest health.

Recent Findings

With the advent of new molecular technologies, we can better understand the biology of forest fungi by examining their genetic code. By utilizing genomics, fungal pathogens’ biological functions can be deduced from its genomic content. Further, high-resolution marker systems allow the determination of a pathogen’s population genetics and genomics, which provides important insights into its global movement and genetic shifts in local pathogen populations. Such genetic information has diverse applications for forest management to improve forest health. Lastly, new technologies in metagenomics will enhance the abilities to detect, describe, and utilize the complex interactions among fungal pathogens/symbionts, host trees, and associated microbial communities to develop novel management strategies for forest ecosystems.


Continued development and applications of molecular genetic and genomic tools provide insights into the diverse roles of forest-associated fungi in forest ecosystems, but long-term, wide-scale research is needed to determine how ecological functions are influenced by complex ecological interactions among microbial communities, other forest ecosystem components, and the environment. Such approaches may foster a paradigm shift away from single microbial pathogens, decomposers, or symbionts interacting with a single host or substrate, and provide more holistic approaches toward understanding interactions among microbial communities that drive forest health processes.


Forest pathogens Genomics Transcriptomes Metagenomics 



The authors extend thanks to the researchers who facilitated the research described herein.

Funding information

Funding provided for this manuscript includes grants from the USDA Forest Service, Forest Health Protection, Special Technology Development Program, Evaluation Monitoring Program, the Western Wildland Environmental Threat Assessment Center, the Western Forest Conservation Association, and Colorado State University.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Dr. Stewart, Dr. Kim, and Dr. Klopfenstein have no conflicts of interests to declare.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article contains no studies with human and animal subjects performed by the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. government work and its text is not subject to copyright protection in the United States; however, its text may be subject to foreign copyright protection 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jane E. Stewart
    • 1
  • Mee-Sook Kim
    • 2
  • Ned B. Klopfenstein
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest ManagementColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.Pacific Northwest Research StationUnited States Department of Agriculture, Forest ServiceCorvallisUSA
  3. 3.Rocky Mountain Research StationUnited States Department of Agriculture, Forest ServiceMoscowUSA

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